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A popular career option in the healthcare field today increasingly is that of mental health counselor. When you earn a master’s in counseling, you can work in a variety of mental health counseling occupations. This can be a very smart career choice today; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that job growth for mental health counselors will be 19% by 2024.
If you are considering a master’s in counseling degree, you will be able to work in many counseling roles where you can help people to work through their relationship and emotional problems.
Most master’s in counseling degree programs can be finished in two or three years full time. Most specialties also require you to complete at least 2000 hours of clinical work under supervision of a licensed counselor, at minimum. Once you have complete your clinical work, you then must pass a state examination.
For the most part, to practice on an independent basis in counseling, you eventually will need to earn a doctoral degree. Some types of counselor, such as substance abuse counselor, can work with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You should check with your state to determine licensure requirements for each counseling speciality.
The most common types of master’s in counseling degree specialties include these:
Mental Health Counseling
A master’s degree in mental health counseling will provide you with the skills to do the following:
- Diagnosis serious mental health issues
- Work with the patient to devise effective treatment plans
- Perform psychotherapy with individuals, couples and families
- Intervene in a crisis situation such as a mental health problem, divorce or job loss
- Help clients to work through the process of making critical life decisions
- Help clients to develop skills and strategies to alter their behavior and deal effectively with challenging life problems
Many mental health counselors are trained to work with specific groups, such as college students, children or the elderly. The majority of mental health counselors will help their clients with depression, grief, low self esteem, stress and thoughts of suicide. They also are very skilled in mental and emotional health matters and troubles with relationships.
A common curriculum for this type of master’s program includes these courses:
- Survey of Research in Human Development for Professional Counselors
- Survey of Research Methodology
- Assessment, Tests, and Measures
- Principles of Psychopathology: Diagnosis and Treatment
- Ethical and Legal Issues in Professional Counseling
- Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Crisis Assessment and Intervention
- Theories of Psychotherapy
- Life Planning and Career Development
- Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations
School and Career Counseling
School and career counseling programs offer you the skills to serve both students and adults as they obtain their education. You also will learn how to collaborate effectively with teachers, psychologists, medical professionals and administrators to help students to be more successful.
School counselors who work with elementary school students are more focused on social, behavioral and personal problems that affect student learning. School counselors also develop educational programs and workshops that will help students to better develop their behavioral skills so that they can learn more effectively.
A program that is more focused on career counseling will teach you how to properly assess the skills and talents of students in their teen years and older. That way you can help to guide them into careers where they are most likely to be successful.
The common curriculum in a school counseling master’s degree includes these courses:
- Foundations of Graduate Study in School Counseling
- Introduction to School Counseling
- Counseling Theories for School Counselors
- Counseling Techniques in Schools
- Ethical and Legal Issues for School Counselors
- Pre-Practicum Lab
- Leadership, Advocacy and Consultation in School Counseling
- Lifespan Development
- Multicultural Counseling in Schools
- Child and Adolescent Counseling
Marriage and Family Counseling
Earning a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling (MFT) will assist you in developing the skills and growth you need to practice effectively as a marriage and family therapist. You will receive rigorous training that help you to major a real difference in the lives of your patients.
Marriage and family therapy is distinct from other areas of psychology because it focuses less on the pathology of the individual. Instead, the emphasis is on viewing people’s problems and symptoms as interactional processes that are more easily understood within the family or couple unit. Students in this program are trained to devise a more theoretical approach to the treatment of patients and clients. This may be referred to in some programs as ‘systems theory.’
This program may be completed in approximately two years. Some of the common courses in an MFT program are:
- Creating Communities of Interest
- Professional Identity, Law and Ethics for Counselors
- The Counseling Process
- Theories in Counseling
- Counseling Through the Lifespan
- Research Methods and Data Analysis for Counselors
- Psychopathology for Marriage and Family Therapists
- Theories of Marriage and Family Therapy
Chemical Dependency Counseling
Another option is to earn your master’s degree in chemical dependency counseling. This may also be referred to as addiction or rehabilitation counseling.
This master’s program will teach you the skills to help people to overcome their chemical and other substance abuse problems. You will learn how to evaluate the mental and physical health of your patients, and how their addiction or problem issue is affecting their overall life.
This type of counselor frequently is intensely trained in 12-step program principles, which includes programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. With this type of training, you will teach your patients how to deal with problems and stresses of life in healthy ways.
Common courses in this type of master’s in counseling program are:
- Lifespan Development
- Multicultural Counseling in Schools
- Child and Adolescent Counseling
- Group Counseling and Guidance in Schools
- Crisis, Trauma, and Disaster Response
- Assessment in Counseling and Education
- Academic and Career Counseling
- Research and School Counseling Program Evaluation
- Counseling Practicum
- Introduction to Addiction
- Counseling Internship
- Substance Abuse Counseling
A master’s program in rehabilitation counseling will teach you how to assist people with mental, physical and emotional disabilities to live on an independent basis. This master’s program will teach you how to work with clients to overcome and manage various social, personal and psychological effects that have to do with disabilities and living on an independent basis.
Your rehabilitation program will teach you to work with people with all types of disabilities at various times of their lives. For example, your coursework will teach you how to devise strategies to help people to live with their disability as they go from work to school or vice versa. You also may help veterans to deal effectively with the effects mental or physical illness.
Some of the courses that you might take in this type of master’s in counseling program are:
- Counseling: Theory and Process
- Career Development
- Counseling Skills
- Group: Process and Procedures
- Orientation to Rehabilitation Counseling
- Medical, Functional, and Environmental Aspects of Disability I
- Vocational Rehabilitation Case Management and Placement
- Multicultural Counseling
- Advanced Seminar – Substance Abuse
- Research Methods in Education
- Life Span Development
- Why Get a Masters in Counseling Psychology
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- Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
- Master of Science in School Counseling. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.waldenu.edu/masters/ms-in-school-counseling/curriculum/addiction-counseling
- Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.capella.edu/online-degrees/masters-mental-health-counseling/courses/
- Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bamabydistance.ua.edu/degrees/ma-in-rehabilitation-counseling-online/curriculum/index.php